Archive for the ‘Coaching Staff’ Category

bobstanleyt

We have our scapegoat!

Or, at least, we have what looks like it might be our scapegoat, even though there may well be perfectly good reasons for a change. That’s because, according to a report from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Bob Stanley is out as the Jays’ bullpen coach.

Stanley, you may recall, was promoted late in the process last winter, when in mid-January Pat Hentgen stepped aside from the position in order to deal with a family matter. Stanley – yes, the Bob Stanley (look him up, kids) — was slated to be the pitching coach at Buffalo, but got the call to be the Jays’ bullpen coach instead.

He certainly “oversaw” a bad year in what was supposed to be a good ‘pen — or at the very least he sat nearby as guys like Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar imploded, as Marcus Stroman struggled during his initial promotion, as Casey Janssen sagged down the stretch after an illness at the All-Star break, as Dustin McGowan underperformed (especially by FIP and xFIP), and as Esmil Rogers went on to be somewhat useful, and Jeremy Jeffress to be pretty terrific, once they both moved on to other organizations.

How much of that is really on Stanley? It’s impossible to say, but my best guess is not much. Still, the lack of success makes it somewhat justifiable, and probably even makes for good optics in the minds of some. Plus, he was never a guy who the club intended on being there anyway, and as Davidi explains, the leading candidates to replace him “all have relationships and experience with many of the young Blue Jays pitchers making their way up the system.” Hentgen isn’t among them, though he remains with the organization. According to Davidi, pitching coordinator Dane Johnson, roving instructor Rick Langford, and Bisons pitching coach Randy St. Claire are all in the running for the big league post.

Makes sense.

Davidi also tells us that Demarlo Hale interviewed with the Minnesota Twins as a potential candidate to be their next field manager, so he might need a replacement, but otherwise the Jays’ coaches will all be back next season.

So… there’s that.

kevinlong2

Dwayne Murphy. Chad Mottola. Kevin Seitzer. Kevin Long?

Could the Jays be looking to hire a fourth hitting coach in four years, replacing John Gibbons’ hand-picked ol’ pal Kevin Seitzer?

Well, of course they could. But the strange thing is, according to a report from Mark Feinsand of the Daily News, they actually might be actively looking to do so. Specifically, they’ve spoken to recently fired Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.

To wit: “Long has already had phone conversations with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson as well as the general managers and/or managers from the Braves and Blue Jays.”

Long had been the Yankees hitting coach since 2007, which means that not only Seitzer, Mottola, and Murphy have been employed in that position by the Jays during his tenure, but also Gene Tenance and Mickey Brantley.

Denbo

Oh… and the last former Yankees hitting to have been lured north of the border: the one and only Gary Denbo.

That went swimmingly, right?

Of course, just because Denbo was scapegoated failed spectacularly doesn’t mean that any ex-Yankee will.

But the bigger question about the Jays talking to a potential replacement for Seitzer is, what exactly does all mean?

We could take the opportunity here to sift through the noise of the Jays hitters’ 2014 performances and try to pull in some kind of signal that explains the job their hitting coach did, but even with a massive research project, it would be hard to imagine finding anything conclusive.

Yeah, Jose Bautista used the opposite field more, Brett Lawrie looked like he was coming around before injury hit, and Adam Lind traded power for more doubles (relative to his number of plate appearances) and fewer strikeouts. But in general the guys who you’d expect to be good were good, and the guys you’d expect to be bad were bad.

The team struggled to score runs in August, but it was with three of their most dangerous hitters either out or rushed back into action.

Seitzer seemed ineffective at getting through to Colby Rasmus, and his main off-season protege, Ryan Goins, didn’t hit any better than expected, but… that’s Ryan Goins and Colby Rasmus.

He was there, and the Jays did what they did, but it’s hard to say from here whether he did anything particularly well or particularly poorly. Those who worked with him will surely have a better idea, but that doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with whether a coach will come back either — ask last year’s hitting coach, Chad Mottola.

But Mottola’s departure and Seitzer’s arrival is what would make serious overtures from the Jays towards long especially odd. They already used a hitting coach as scapegoat last year — and the year before — and Seitzer is very obviously Gibbers’ guy.

Less serious overtures, though? As in… doing their due diligence? As in taking the opportunity to pick the brain of the guy who was central to implementing the Yankees’ hitting philosophies for the last eight seasons?

That makes more sense to me. Unless Long is some sort of otherworldly master of the trade and the race is on to get him, regardless of whose expense his signature comes at. But then the Yankees wouldn’t very likely have let him go, would they?

There’s also the fact that Seitzer, like most (if not all) of the Jays coaches, simply goes year-to-year with his contract, and is likely a free agent himself. But should we really think Seitzer might be dissatisfied with the Jays, and willing to give up one of the 30 MLB hitting coach jobs in existence, and that the Jays are dissatisfied enough with him to be looking elsewhere?

No. But it certainly can’t hurt to know more about who’s out there, especially since the report also suggests that the Red Sox have interest in Long, having themselves had hitting coach Greg Colbrunn step down at the end of the season, in part due to his hospitalization for two weeks in June after suffering a brain hemorrhage. And, at least until we hear anything more on this front, I’m going to continue just assuming that Seitzer will be back. Which seems pretty alright to me.

So… there’s that.

goins

The off-season keeps on chooglin’, and while there is still time for the Jays to do something about their situation at second base — the position that Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs cites as one of the three worst among all potentially contending teams in the Majors (while giving Alex Anthopoulos credit enough to know that Ryan Goins is “not the kind of guy who’s supposed to be the favorite, not at this point”) — there genuinely remains the potential that they’re more comfortable with the status quo than any reasonable person ought to be able to believe.

We know for certain, at least, that the club is determined to act like they’re OK with going into the season with Goins — and his disgusting .214/.243/.310 line against mostly minor league left-handed pitching in 2013 — at the helm, and an example of the supposed confidence came up during Mike Wilner’s chat with the club’s new hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer, this week.

Some of the chat can be heard on the Fan 590′s On Demand Audio page, and it’s an interesting one. When he really gets going, Seitzer sounds as much like a sports psychologist as he does a hitting coach– though maybe that’s an accurate representation of half of his job description anyway — not to mention sincere as hell.

“I don’t care where the ball goes, I want production,” he says, with the intonation of a preacher reaching a quiet ebb.

But while all the stuff about Alex Gordon and Billy Butler is nice — coloured as it is by the language of batting average and RBIs (which is somewhat disheartening, though hopefully more an outdated necessity within clubhouse culture more than it is a reflection of the organization’s failure to recognize progress) — what really piqued my interest was a tweet from Wilner about comment that isn’t in the audio clip you’ll hear via the above link.

“Seitzer compared [Goins] to Alcides Escobar,” he wrote. “They thought he wouldn’t hit, Seitzer disagreed. He hit .293 in ’12.”

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leiper

That’s him on the left.

Well, they had the Tim part right, it seems, but it’s not the much-rumoured Tim Raines who we’ll see patrolling the first base coach’s box at Rogers Centre next year, but former Ottawa Lynx manager Tim Leiper.

Who, you ask? Tim Leiper! He has a Wikipedia entry and everything! And it looks like he’s on Twitter, at @timleiper! But first, Shi Davidi’s report from Sportsnet:

The Toronto Blue Jays will name Tim Leiper their first base coach next week, rounding out the coaching staff under manager John Gibbons, multiple sources told sportsnet.ca.

The 47-year-old gets promoted from within after serving as a senior advisor, player development for the club last season.

Shi adds that the club is still considering whether to add an extra coach for this season.

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seitzer-alomar

According to the internet– or, if you prefer to be more specific, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star– um… what the headline says, i.e. this:

Cue morons rushing en masse to look up how bad the Royals were at hitting under his tutelage in order to dumbly shit all over the move as though that would actually tell us anything.

Or… well… it’s practically impossible to separate a hitting coach’s influence from the actual talent on his roster, and I’d say that we should maybe not indulge in such pointlessness too much, but it’s probably unavoidable.

To start: Seitzer, who was an impressive hitter in his own right, posting a .295/.375/.404 line over his 12-year career, was the Royals’ hitting coach from 2009 through 2012. His name has been strongly linked to the Jays job right from the get-go, as I noted (via Shi Davidi) in a Daily Duce post back on Thursday, because of his relationship with John Gibbons, who was the Royals’ bench coach from 2008 until the end of 2011.

He also, then, was around when Melky Cabrera had his major breakout season, for whatever that’s worth.

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mottolalizard

Alex Anthopoulos joined Bob McCown and Damien Cox yesterday evening on Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590 (audio here), to speak about the state of his club, the firing of his hitting coach, and– apparently– to spread the gospel of OPS, pitcher wins, batting average, and All-Star appearances.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a team or players excelling at those things, it’s just… elevate the conversation, Alex. Or, at the very least, if you have a bunch of proprietary analytics that you’re using, go ahead and mention that! Please! We’re starting to worry!

Anywho… obviously the topic du jour was the topic of the day, and on Tuesday that was the changes to the coaching staff, with Dwayne Murphy retiring and Chad Mottola being shown the door– or at least the door to the big league club’s dressing room.

Anthopoulos didn’t shy away from answering questions about it, though he was typically short on specifics:

Once Gibby and I talked about it, we just said, ‘You know what? We viewed them as a tandem, and this is a chance to change it up and go in some other direction.’ And Gibby has some guys that he’s worked with in the past, that he has good and strong relationships with. So, it was as much that. But, you know, I’ve talked to Chad, and I’ve told him that the door’s open to stay in the organization, and we can talk, and for him to take a few days and decide what he wants to do. I expect him to get a lot of phone calls; a lot of job offers. He’s well regarded– there’s not going to be an issue with him finding a job– and whether one of another 29 clubs has a big league opportunity, that remains to be seen. But there’s still a scenario that he’ll be back with us, and we’ll just give him as much time as he needs to work it out.

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mottola

Chad Mottola

Well here’s an odd bit of news given everything we’ve ever heard about the Jays’ supposed wizard of a hitting coach: per a team release, neither Dwayne Murphy nor Chad Mottola will be returning to the Major League coaching staff of the Blue Jays in 2014.

Murphy, who moved to first base this year after being the club’s hitting coach since 2010 (having been promoted from the role of roving hitting instructor) is retiring as a coach.

Mottola, the hitting coach, who had worked his way up through the organization, and long been praised for his work with the club’s minor leaguers– having appeared to have been specifically groomed for the role, even joining the big league staff in September of 2012– according to the release, “will not return to the Major League staff in 2014.”

That’s all that’s specified by the release, pertaining to those two, so it’s somewhat unclear if Mottola is being reassigned– perhaps they felt he works better with up-and-comers?– or if this is a straight-up firing. My inkling is that they would have announced a reassignment, or at least made mention of it, were that the case, but that’s all the information we have at the moment.

John Gibbons’ other staffers– bench coach DeMarlo Hale, pitching coach Pete Walker, third base coach Luis Rivera, and bullpen coach Pat Hentgen– will remain in their roles next season.

No replacements for the departing coaches have been named.

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